Test Drive: Sony A99, with Zeiss 24-70mm/2.8 and Sony G 35mm/f1.4

In December 2012, I had the opportunity to try out the Sony A99 along with two exceptional lenses – the Sony G 35mm/f1.4 and Zeiss 24-70mm/f2.8. I have been considering switching camera systems, selling my Nikon D200 and lenses and moving to a new system – preferably something with video capabilities. As I’ve been very much enjoying my Sony RX-100, checking out Sony’s new full-frame body seemed like a fun idea.

Of special interest to me was the Zeiss glass that could be utilized with the camera. Sony is the only company for whom Zeiss currently makes autofocus SLR lenses. You can get Zeiss primes for your Canon or Nikon, but Sony is the only one with auto-focus. Also, considering Sony’s background in consumer camcorders, I thought their video abilities would likely be better than Nikon or Canon.

Interestingly, I have now hit my 10th anniversary of working with digital cameras. I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D100 in January of 2003. I used that till 2005, when I got my Leica R8-DMR. That system served me until 2011 and then I stepped over to a Nikon D200. Now again, it seems time for me to consider a change. The Sony is the first full-frame DSLR that I’ve gotten to spend any amount of time with. That full-frame sensor, along with the Zeiss lens, produced some very nice images during the week that I had it.

The Sony has tons of control options and its level of customability is pretty remarkable. There are 4-5 buttons whose functions are determined by the camera-user. I really came to appreciate that. The multi-function controller on the front of the cameraa took getting used to, but I can to appreciate its convenience.

I was very concerned about whether or not I would enjoy the electronic viewfinder, as opposed to a traditional optical viewfinder. Sony has made a VERY nice viewfinder. The advantages that come with an electronic viewfinder just might outweigh the “feel” I’m used to in an optical finder.  Being able to switch from viewing in the viewfinder to the LCD, with no loss of AF speed was excellent. Being able to playback images in the viewfinder or the LCD was also very nice.

The Zeiss 24-70/2.8 was amazing. Feels great, is sharp as a tack, focuses fast, and is so well-constructed. It’s really a “pro” lens and reminded me of when I was shooting Contax SLRs with Zeiss lenses.

Other features I enjoyed: the multi-shot auto-ISO, the panning panoramic mode, the shape and weight of the camera body, the built-in digital teleconverter, the high-speed motor drive and higher-speed cropped motor-drive, and the unique hinging of the LCD. Man, this camera was GREAT. I’m definitely going to give some thought to it.

I rented the camera and lenses from LensRentals.com.

If you want to see some down-loadable hi-res jpgs, go HERE. I ask for your name and email, but do not share them. There’s also some of my test-pics from other cameras you can see and download too!

If you want to see some video I captured with the camera, go HERE (and try to ignore when you hear me trying to sing).

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8 thoughts on “Test Drive: Sony A99, with Zeiss 24-70mm/2.8 and Sony G 35mm/f1.4

  1. Pingback: Sony TidBits… | sonyalpharumors

  2. I notice you did a bit of night photography with the A99 and its electronic viewfinder. How would you say the experience of composing images through the EVF at night compares to the experience of doing so with an optical viewfinder? Is there any noticeable choppiness as you pan your view across the scene looking for the right composition due to the longer shutter speeds required to render a live movie on the EVF for you to compose your image with?

    Also… Is there a way to turn the EVF’s brightness down (the way that an iPhone or Android phone can be made quite dim if you so desire) at night time, so as not to ruin your night vision when you look away from the screen and need to see properly in the real world?

    I worry about these things because I’m concerned about whether or not an A99 would be useful (or even useable) in a dark hall at, for example, a wedding reception. I wouldn’t want to trip over old ladies on the dancefloor due to being temporarily EVF-blind!

    • Composing through the EVF, in low-light situations took a bit of getting used to. What’s interesting is that the EVF actually brightens the viewfinder when you are in darker situations. So, seeing the brighter image took my brain a little getting used to, because that didn’t necessarily reflect how the camera would expose the scene, it just made it easier to see. I don’t recall any choppiness in the viewfinder.
      As for EVF brightness control, I can’t remember. That camera is so customizable, that I’d have to imagine you could control viewfinder brightness, but I don’t remember seeking it out in the menus.
      I don’t think you’d have much problem shooting a wedding, wedding reception with this camera. I don’t foresee “EVF blindness”.
      Best of wishes,
      Troy

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